Fisher of Devils
(House of Dominion, $17.95, 278 pages, paperback, published 2003.)
If you're wondering why the Apocalypse didn't happen as planned at
midnight, Fisher of Devils, your metaphysical
National Enquirer, spills the beans and dishes out the gossip.
Psst -- Archangel and Dark Lord in Love Triangle Shocker! And it all
started back In The Beginning ...
Year's Eve, 1999, the answer's right here. Corruption in Limbo, conservative
extremism and underground liberalism in Heaven, God's family problems
and terrible doctrinal mistakes:
There's a certain hand-rubbing, moustache-twirling fun to be had in
taking aspects of Christian doctrine literally, applying mechanistic
constraints to metaphoric concepts such as the Virgin Mary's bodily
ascension into Heaven, or the Second Judgement. The film Dogma
is probably the most notable recent example of this kind of japery.
But just as Dogma featured Jay and Silent Bob, the living nob
gags that permeate Kevin Smith's films, so the tone of Fisher of
Devils is lowered by a quantity of what can best be described as
schoolboy humour. The nearest literary equivalent I can think of is
the Illuminatus! series of novels; if you got on well with the
Shea/Wilson brand of lunacy, you'll probably do fine here, but if intellectual
pogo-ing coupled with cheap laffs doesn't float your boat, perhaps you
ought to stay in harbour.
The make-or-break is the first third of the novel, given entirely over
to what is essentially backstory for the main plot. Here we're given
the tour of the Garden of Eden, and shown God's greatest mistake --
Adam -- and His greatest achievement -- Eve. Predictably, there's gags
to be had when God comes up with the idea of procreation; this is where
the bulk of the juvenilia may be found. Come through this third of the
novel smiling, and you're set for a 180-page story of surprising depth
and emotional warmth. Prepare to meet St Darren, the deranged fundamentalist
dead baby who wants to run Heaven the old-fashioned way. It falls to
St Peter, the earthy ex-fisherman, to enlist some unlikely support to
thwart his schemes. At no point does the prose drag, and the characters
stay more or less on track throughout, but it does feel in retrospect
as though the latter 180 pages were a reward for enduring the first
100. I don't mean to suggest that the novel's opening third is actually
bad, but it can be trying at times.
As divine comedies go, Fisher of Devils is no Good Omens,
but it does portend well for Redwood's future career. He's got the humour,
the characterisation and the ideas -- all he needs is a little more
self-control, and he could easily give the likes of Pratchett and Rankin
a run for their money.